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Paul Champion's "An Introduction to Bluegrass Banjo Playing

Nov 22, 2020 - 9:06:14 AM
3430 posts since 4/27/2004

I don't know if this is posted in the right forum but I found a copy of "An Introduction to Bluegrass Banjo Playing (Three Finger Style)" by Paul Champion at a flea market today. I had never heard of this instruction book until today. Of course, Paul Champion was famous for his original flathead Gibson RB-Granada but this book was published in 1964. Apparently, Paul owned an original RB-3 flathead at that time and that must be the banjo pictured in the book. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting find but I don't know how rare this instruction book is. If anyone has more info on the book or the RB-3, please share it!

Nov 23, 2020 - 12:05:25 AM
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HSmith

UK

398 posts since 12/30/2005

Hi
This is the first banjo instruction book I ever bought, more than 50 years ago! At that time here in the UK, bluegrass was virtually unheard of and teachers, quality instruments, good albums and competent bluegrass musicians just couldn't be found outside of London. This book was a Godsend to me and placed me firmly on the bluegrass journey I'm still following today.

Regards
Harry

Nov 23, 2020 - 4:18:53 AM
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1414 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by southerndrifter

I don't know if this is posted in the right forum but I found a copy of "An Introduction to Bluegrass Banjo Playing (Three Finger Style)" by Paul Champion at a flea market today. I had never heard of this instruction book until today. Of course, Paul Champion was famous for his original flathead Gibson RB-Granada but this book was published in 1964. Apparently, Paul owned an original RB-3 flathead at that time and that must be the banjo pictured in the book. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting find but I don't know how rare this instruction book is. If anyone has more info on the book or the RB-3, please share it!


As told to me by Mike Longworth many years ago:

In the mid-fifties, Paul Champion acquired an original 5-string RB-3 (9473-5). The flathead tonering had no holes. Paul and Mike were good friends and in 1958 Paul visited Mike at Seward Air Force Base in Tennessee where Mike was stationed. Neither of them had ever seen a tonering with no holes and they agreed that the holes should be there. So at the base hobby shop, they selected the sharpest drill bit in the box (a tiny bit larger), and proceeded to drill the holes by hand.
Upon reassembly of the banjo they both realized that there was no real change in the tone or responsiveness of the instrument, at least not enough to justify the drilling and they both regretted having altered it for years afterward.

The banjo has an amazing history, but sadly no longer exists.

Paul's Granada was an original FE plectrum 558-1 with a H&F 5-string neck by Tom Morgan.

 

Nov 23, 2020 - 7:05:36 AM

13608 posts since 10/30/2008

Do I remember correctly that the poem published in Bluegrass Unlimited "Paul's Banjo" back in the late 1960s, was Paul Champion?

I can only remember today one phrase from the poem which mentioned "40 flecks of hearts and flowers" or something like that.

Nov 23, 2020 - 7:40:34 AM

RB3

USA

887 posts since 4/12/2004

I also have a Paul Champion Bluegrass banjo instruction book, but the title is slightly different, so I think mine might be a different edition. It was my first instruction book; I think I bought it 1967. It has a strange tablature format that's unlike any that I've ever seen. It included tablature for Cumberland Gap, Cripple Creek, John Henry and Jesse James.  The photos in the book show a Mastertone with a flying eagle inlay pattern.

It also included one of those thin, flexible, vinyl disks that you could play on a 33 1/3 rpm record player. The disk had demonstrations of the exercises and the tunes. I remember vividly, that after each exercise, the instructor's voice (Paul Champion?) would say, "practice, practice and pretty soon, it'll sound like this".  I still have the book, but the disk has long since been lost.

In retrospect, I would say that the greatest benefit I got from the book came from a photo that showed how the finger picks should be bent and worn on the fingers.  That has served me well for more than 50 years.  Below is a link that shows the cover of the book I have.

Paul Champion Instruction Book
 

Nov 23, 2020 - 8:28:25 AM

117 posts since 2/3/2016

Visit  paulchampion.net
The site info is put together by a good friend of mine Bob Higginbotham, who is also my banjo teacher. It has info about Paul his banjos and his book. Cool find on the book.

Edited by - Robbie McKee on 11/23/2020 08:36:11

Nov 23, 2020 - 8:34:26 AM

AGACNP

USA

144 posts since 10/12/2011

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

Do I remember correctly that the poem published in Bluegrass Unlimited "Paul's Banjo" back in the late 1960s, was Paul Champion?

I can only remember today one phrase from the poem which mentioned "40 flecks of hearts and flowers" or something like that.


Indeed!

https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/352236

Nov 23, 2020 - 10:12:50 AM
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13608 posts since 10/30/2008

Thanks Bruce, you reminded me I had my question answered here years ago!

Nov 23, 2020 - 3:22:05 PM

11207 posts since 1/15/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Oldtwanger
quote:
Originally posted by southerndrifter

I don't know if this is posted in the right forum but I found a copy of "An Introduction to Bluegrass Banjo Playing (Three Finger Style)" by Paul Champion at a flea market today. I had never heard of this instruction book until today. Of course, Paul Champion was famous for his original flathead Gibson RB-Granada but this book was published in 1964. Apparently, Paul owned an original RB-3 flathead at that time and that must be the banjo pictured in the book. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting find but I don't know how rare this instruction book is. If anyone has more info on the book or the RB-3, please share it!


As told to me by Mike Longworth many years ago:

In the mid-fifties, Paul Champion acquired an original 5-string RB-3 (9473-5). The flathead tonering had no holes. Paul and Mike were good friends and in 1958 Paul visited Mike at Seward Air Force Base in Tennessee where Mike was stationed. Neither of them had ever seen a tonering with no holes and they agreed that the holes should be there. So at the base hobby shop, they selected the sharpest drill bit in the box (a tiny bit larger), and proceeded to drill the holes by hand.
Upon reassembly of the banjo they both realized that there was no real change in the tone or responsiveness of the instrument, at least not enough to justify the drilling and they both regretted having altered it for years afterward.

The banjo has an amazing history, but sadly no longer exists.

Paul's Granada was an original FE plectrum 558-1 with a H&F 5-string neck by Tom Morgan.

 


Frank, your MIke Longworth mention reminded me that I know the gentleman who owns Mike's original prewar Martin D-45, whom he bought from MIke.  According to him, when MIke parted ways with Martin (maybe not so amicably, not sure), as he was walking out the door, he said, "Oh, by the way.  That D-45 you have in the  museum is not yours.  It belongs to me."  He promptly went into the museum and retrieved his D-45 and was on his way.  Not sure if the story is true, but I like to believe it.

Nov 24, 2020 - 6:16:31 AM

3430 posts since 4/27/2004

quote:
Originally posted by RB3

I also have a Paul Champion Bluegrass banjo instruction book, but the title is slightly different, so I think mine might be a different edition. It was my first instruction book; I think I bought it 1967. It has a strange tablature format that's unlike any that I've ever seen. It included tablature for Cumberland Gap, Cripple Creek, John Henry and Jesse James.  The photos in the book show a Mastertone with a flying eagle inlay pattern.

It also included one of those thin, flexible, vinyl disks that you could play on a 33 1/3 rpm record player. The disk had demonstrations of the exercises and the tunes. I remember vividly, that after each exercise, the instructor's voice (Paul Champion?) would say, "practice, practice and pretty soon, it'll sound like this".  I still have the book, but the disk has long since been lost.

In retrospect, I would say that the greatest benefit I got from the book came from a photo that showed how the finger picks should be bent and worn on the fingers.  That has served me well for more than 50 years.  Below is a link that shows the cover of the book I have.

Paul Champion Instruction Book
 


You might have the original edition. Mine has a different cover and doesn't mention the Kingston Trio. I don't think it had the floppy record either. The inside credits on my book says "Published 1964" but it still could be a reprint. And I agree, it did demonstrate an unusual tablature!

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